It is the morning after the night before. Last night I attended a farewell drinking session that was arranged for one of the English. Unsurprisingly it was carnage. Farewell soirees for the English always are. They drink themselves into a stupor.
The English who is returning to the Mother country is a man named Sean. He is a very fine man and I will miss him. Singapore will be a lesser place without him.
One of the English sent around an email this morning asking if anyone would like to join him for a 'Hair of the Dog". This is a blatant request for these drunken animals to continue their imbibing of alcohol. I cannot imagine how these people can function with the amount of drinking that they do.
A 'Hair of the Dog" is a supposed cure for a hangover. It is not so much of a cure but is more a continuation of drunkenness. The term arose in sixteenth century England. Physicians of that era would dress the wounds of people who had been bitten by rabid dogs with the burnt hair of a canine. I kid you not. This was accepted medical practice for almost 200 years. Despite the fact that it cured no one. How it then related to a 'cure' for a hangover is a mystery.
The English often refer to their homeland as the Mother Land. I have always assumed that this is an abbreviation for Mother Fucker land but I was informed tonight by many of the English that this is not actually the case.
I am far from convinced.
The Mother Land is not actually an English term at all. It's origins are Russian. "Mother Russia" is a term used by Russians to describe their homeland. Quite a few Germanic and Scandinavian countries refer to their homelands a "Fatherlands". The Dutch call Holland "Vaderland". Danish refer to Denmark as "Faedreland" and to the Swedes it is "Fadernslandet". We Australians just call home "Australia". We tend to keep things straightforward and simple.
It is what we do.
My English friend Sean is relocating back to his home town of Bath. This is a spa town in the county of Somerset. I have been there before. It is very pretty. Bath was first established by the Romans a couple of thousand years ago. They constructed a village on top of a hot spring. The Romans liked to bathe in hot springs. They bathed together. The Romans also invented the orgy. I am assuming that the orgy arose from this bathing together. The English do not like to bathe at all. The Roman baths are remarkably well preserved in the city of Bath and they are a major tourist attraction. When I first visited Bath I was a tourist. The Roman Baths attracted me.
Sean told me last night that he is very excited to be returning home. He has been living in Singapore for eight years and he told me that life on the Island has worn him down. It wears us all down and we all inevitably leave. The heat and madness of this place is punishing.
Home is also somewhere that we all desire to return to. I miss my home and my family. I am feeling quite homesick right now just thinking and writing about it. Home is a place where we feel that we belong. Home is memories - it is places and faces and times gone by. It is comfort and familiarity. Home is not just a place. It is an irrevocable condition and at this very moment I yearn and ache for it.
I miss it a lot.
Much of the normal crowd was at the farewell function last night. There were many English. Mostly Londoners but also the Northerners as well. Ay Oop. There were also Scots and Welsh and several Irish. Wherever there are copious amounts of alcohol involved there are always Irish. Australians and New Zealanders were also well represented and there were also some people in attendance from Germany and France. There were many Singaporeans too. Our friend Sean is much liked and there was a healthy gathering to say our goodbyes.
There were quite a few other rowdy groups at the Bar where we had gathered for Sean's farewell. The venue was in a pub district of Singapore called Club Street. People tend to spill out into the street in this area and groups get intermingled. I chatted to a group of Israeli tourists who were sitting at a table next to where I was sitting for a while. They seemed to be both intrigued and a little concerned by the drunken English and Europeans that were surrounding them. I introduced myself by reassuring them that they were mostly harmless.
There were half a dozen Israelis in their group. They were all women. The women were of various ages. I was quite surprised when they collectively announced to me when I said hello that they were all lesbians. I was a little taken aback at this unexpected declaration and I didn't really know how to respond. I think that I simply congratulated them. I then told them that I was a heterosexual. It was a bit strange.
I mostly chatted to two of the Israeli lesbians. Their names were Liat and Maya. They told me that they were a couple. When I asked them why they thought that it was necessary to tell me that they were all lesbians they looked at me in a fairly blank fashion and said, "Because ve are"
"But I don't generally go around announcing to strangers that I am heterosexual" I argued.
"Because men are all peegs" the girl named Maya replied.
That simply didn't make any sense. I told Maya and Liat this and they got a bit arrogant and petulant. Israelis are a bit like this. I quite like it.
"Men are all pigs?"
"Well it is obvious that many of these guys are" I agreed - pointing out some of the English who were revelling around us.
"But I think it is a bit unfair to say that I am actually a stinking pig" I added. "You don't know me at all"
"All men are peegs" Maya asserted
"Israeli men are all pigs?' I enquired.
"Beeg peegs" Maya replied.
"You think this too" I asked Liat.
She shrugged in a non-committal manner.
"I assume that you both have fathers? Are they pigs"
"You are calling my father a peeg?" Maya demanded. Her aggression was delighting me.
"No I am just asking. You said all men are pigs"
"He ees not a peeg"
At that moment my mate Australian mate Simon lurched up to me. He was as pissed as a newt.
"Owitgoin Hep?" he enquired. His speech was slurred and he was a bit wobbly on his feet.
"Who have we got here?" he grinned. Simon was holding a stubby of beer in one hand and had a lit cigarette in his other.
"These are my new lesbian Israeli friends Maya and Liat" I replied. "They think all men are pigs. Except their fathers"
"Lesbians huh? Fair dinkum" Simon declared. "Sweet".
Simon is pure bogan. He is however a very friendly drunk and seemed generally amused by the Israeli lesbians.
"Vot ees thees fair deenkum?" Maya asked of me.
"It is Australian for 'Oh Really'" I explained
Both Israeli lesbians cast Simon withering looks of disdain. He just laughed and staggered away.
I persisted in my attempts at friendly conversation with Liat and Maya. After awhile they chilled out a bit and realized that I was neither drunk nor being sleazy. I very often strike up conversations with strangers and it can take some time for them to let their guard down and realize that I mean no harm. I found out that they had just completed their national service and were doing a whirlwind tour of Asia before going back to serve in the Israeli army.
They told me that their next destination was Nepal. I spend quite a bit of my spare time in Nepal. I love the Himalaya mountains and the Nepalese people. Nepal is the exact opposite of Singapore and visiting there puts my life in perspective. It punches the petty out of Peter.
I gave the Israeli lesabians some tips on where they should go and what I thought they should see in Nepal. I also gave them the name and contact details of some of my Nepalese friends who live in Kathmandu and told them that they would be pleased to show them around this ancient city. I assured them that none of my Nepalese friends were pigs.
Both Maya and Liat reminded me a lot of my Hungarian Grandmother. They even sounded quite similar when they spoke. The Israeli lesbians warmed quite a lot when I told them that I had Jewish blood. My Hungarian grandmother was a mad woman. She was certifiable.
Simon lurched up again at one point and told me that he was leaving. He said "Hooroo Hep. Seez ya later lesbian sheilas" as he was leaving.
"Vot is thees Ooroo Hep and sheilas meaning?" Liat asked.
"Hooroo is Australian for goodbye and a sheila is Australian for a woman" I explained. "Hep is my nickname. It is a shortened version of my quite long surname'
"Oosralians speak in a strange language" Maya observed.
"We sometimes do" I agreed.
I asked the lesbian Israelis what it was like living in a country that was surrounded by Arab people who wanted to exterminate them. They told me that it was very difficult and stressful. I have talked about such matters to both Israelis and Palestinians before and can only imagine what it would be like. Living amongst such constant violent conflict must be a real bitch.
I was surprised when they informed me that they had many Palestinian friends and that they thought that Israel should remain out of Gaza. I told them that I agreed that Palestine should be allowed to rule it's own destiny.
My Northern friend the Hammer and one of the Scottish lads I know then wandered over to the table I was sitting at with the Israeli lesbians. Both were holding very large glasses of vodka and tonic and were noticeably inebriated.
"Ay Oop 'Ep" the Hammer roared and he put his large and hairy arm around me.
"Ay Oop Hammer" I replied as I shrugged off his attempted embrace.
"Before you ask" I explained to Liat and Maya, "Ay Oop is a Northern English greeting. It is the equivalent of your Shalom"
"This is the Hammer and Ernie" I said to the Lesbians. "The Hammer is Lancastrian and Ernie is Scottish. They are both pigs"
"Tha's noot fooken right" the insipid Scot Ernie moaned. "Ahm noot a fooken pig"
"You most certainly are Ernie" I responded
"Ernie and you girls have something in common too" I added. "Ernie is also gay"
"Ah ahm fookin noot". Ernie protested. "Yez shood net be saying that ta these lassies" Ernie continued in his irritating and whining and Scottish voice.
"Vot language ees these peegs speaking in? Maya enquired
"Drunken British" I explained.
Ernie and the Hammer hovered around the table for a little while then staggered off to refill their empty glasses.
The Israeli lesbians began asking me questions about Australia. They enquired about where I came from and what I was doing in Singapore. I told them about Sydney and Melbourne and they informed me that they planned to visit there one day. They told me that they were interested in Australian animals and that they liked kangaroos but were afraid of sharks. I told the girls that my most favorite animal in the world is the wombat and they said that they had never heard of a wombat before. This is quite common for many non-Australians. I got my phone out and pulled up a picture of a baby wombat for the Israeli lesbians to see. They told me that they thought that it was very cute.
"Thees vombat it ees dengeroos?' Maya asked me
"Not at all" I informed her.
I told Maya and Liat that wombats are docile vegetarians who sleep most of the day in holes in the ground. Then they snuffle around at night eating roots and leaves. I also informed them that the male wombat has one partner for his entire life and the couple usually only produce a single baby. I told the Israeli women that I was unsure if there were any gay wombats but I would do some research into the matter. I won't though. Research the matter. I just told them that for reasons that I myself don't understand. Wombats are very close and have tight knit families. There is no animosity or divorce in the wombat world.
"They are very friendly and hairy little Australian pigs" I told the Israeli lesbians. I laughed when I told them this and they laughed back.
We ended up chatting quite amicably - these Israeli lesbians and I. They were very interested in Australian idiom and language so I explained as best I could things like bludgers and blokes and chooks and lamingtons. I told them the meaning of chundering and dunnies and bogans. They were a bit perplexed at times and asked lots of questions. We all chortled a lot.
Not long before midnight I told the Israeli lesbians that I was tired. I informed them that I had to go and say goodbye to my English mate Sean who was leaving the island and then go home to bed. I said that that it was very nice to meet them and that I hoped that they would have an enjoyable time for the rest of their stay in Singapore and a wonderful trip to Nepal.
They both smiled warmly when I shook hands with them as I departed and the Israeli lesbian Maya said to me, "You are not a peeg after all"
"I think I might be sometimes actually Maya" I replied. "But hopefully I am not most of the time"
"See you later Alligator" I said as I began to walk away.
"Vot ees dees you are saying?" Liat enquired.
"Oh it is another Austtralian saying that just means goodbye" I responded.
"You should now say 'In a while crocodile" I added
"So see you later Alligator" I repeated.
"In a vile croocodile" they both giggled.
I laughed and waved goodbye to them. Then I went to say a sad farewell to my English friend Sean.
I love talking to Strangers.
I really do.
I really do.